Preparing to Experience (Part 3): A Method to the Madness
As you learned in Part 2 of the Preparing to Experience series, we are a normal family with normal drama. Our kids have had spit up all over their clothing right when we’re leaving the house; our kids sit down and cry because they don’t like their shoes; our kids are real kids. We don’t live in a perfect, conflict-free and chaos-free home.
Having a routine on Saturday night and then Sunday mornings has enabled us to minimize the conflict and chaos. As a result, we turn out to be pretty happy people showing up to church and ready to join our church family! And mostly on time!
We recognize that all families are different. With so many different personalities and family dynamics, we know that our “method” is not a fix-all for every family. It’s what works for us. Our hope is that as we share our thoughts, you can take what you like and see if it works to help you and/or your family be more prepared for the Big Day of your church gathering.
So, let’s get started.
The goal isn’t about showing up on time. The goal is a prepared heart. Although punctuality is a nice benefit, the goal is three-fold:
1. To show up to our church gathering with hearts that are ready to serve and/or encourage our church family,
2. to show up ready to hear from the Lord
3. to show up ready to respond to and worship the Lord.
As we have established our Saturday night and Sunday morning regimen, it has been helpful for me to understand my kids’ tendencies and to learn how to accommodate/work with those tendencies. It’s also helpful to know your own habits too! (Like misplacing car keys or Bibles or phones. :))
Let me introduce you to my kids once again and give you an idea of their tendencies:
<–This is Taylor.
She is an incredible helper. If there’s anything that I can delegate, she can usually handle it. She is also the one who never gets in a hurry and she tries to shove every marker, pencil, pen and notepad in her bag. This can sometimes slow down our progress. She is also known to try to change her mind about what she wants to wear on the morning of.
This is Rylee. –>
She can be pretty quick to take care of her business and usually thinks ahead to what needs to be done. She does tend to be the one who is missing a shoe or shows up to the church without shoes on. As you can imagine, not having shoes can sometimes add a little chaos to the morning.
<–This is Maddy.
Maddy is our princess that floats and twirls down the hallway. She recently learned to brush her own hair, and she does an amazing job at it! Unfortunately for Maddy, she is three, which means some days she is the emotional one and just needs time to sit, to be held and be heard. She also is the one who wants to take everything she owns in the car with her to church.
Last, certainly not least is Lynon.–>
He is typically a happy, go-with-the-flow kind of dude. However, he is also the shoe-stealer, toy-stealer and overall, mess-maker of mainly himself (especially if he gets ahold of the markers).
Now that you know what kind of personalities we have to work with, here’s our strategy:
Everyone in the family takes baths or showers.
All outfits are picked out the night before, and I usually iron them if they desperately need it. Socks, shoes and any other necessary items are placed with the matching ensemble and placed out of our shoe-stealer’s reach.
We end the evening with the usual bedtime routine, our family devotional and then prayer.
We don’t stay up late on Saturday nights. If Kert and I want to go on a date or hang out with other people, we rarely do it on Saturday nights. We reserve late night events for Thursdays or Fridays. On Saturday, kids are in bed on time or early. Kert and I try to get in bed by 10:00, which is early for us. Then we take a few minutes to talk through the events of the next day. We also usually read over the sermon passage or song line-up right before turning out the lights.
We have discovered that crazy things happen on a Saturday night. Kids vomiting or having bad dreams is usually what wakes us from a deep sleep on Saturday nights. Getting to bed is clutch for us to be able to respond to those needs and still feel like we got enough rest.
I wake up two hours before I wake the kids up. I get myself totally ready. Totally ready. Because my hair was washed and dried the night before, it usually doesn’t take very long. I have the remainder of my time before the kids get up to look at the passage of Scripture that our teacher will be covering that day, to pray, to go over our song-set again, whatever. Just taking my time at whatever I need to do to prepare my heart.
I wake the kids up 45 minutes to an hour before leaving. I usually have some sort of praise and worship music playing in the background.
We eat breakfast. I recommend always feeding your kids before getting them dressed. 🙂 Something simple. We either do cereal or fruit and yogurt on Sundays. And it’s always something we know will promote successful, quick eating. Now they even expect it on Sundays.
On mornings that I’m leading worship, we take our food “to-go”. We eat dry cereal from ziplock bags. Granola bars are handy too.
After eating breakfast, everybody goes up to my room and the older three get fully dressed. I then begin to style everyone’s hair, which is usually basic. They brush their teeth, and then they get the items they would like to take to church with them. We limit the toys for Maddy to two buddies that can ride with her. She often has to be reminded of this, but it’s rarely a time-consuming issue. Taylor and Rylee usually work together to pack their note-taking/doodling supplies.
I save Lynon, our mess-maker for very last. Once he has a fresh diaper and is dressed and ready to go, we head out to the car to get loaded.
We have a 7 minute drive to our church. So, we start loading our car 15 to 20 minutes before we need to be there.
The goal isn’t about showing up on time. The goal is a prepared heart.
Because our goal is about the heart, we need plenty of unhurried time for getting in the car. We need time for making the predictable run back into the house for something, or needing to make a last minute diaper change, or needing to resolve some sort of discipline issue. My family does not respond well when we all feel rushed, I’m barking orders and we’re sprinting to the car and trying to get all those silly car seats buckled.
I am learning that successful Sunday morning experiences for our family begin with a relaxed, pleasant parent. In order to be that parent, I have to prepare in advance. Not just preparing my kids, but myself as well. Having a method to our madness has allowed us all to know what to expect, to minimize the chaos at home and to show up to church with hearts that are calm and ready to serve and hear from the Lord. Most of the time. 🙂
I hope this account is helpful to you! Please feel free to share any tips that have been helpful for you and your family!
UPDATE: Whether you have a big family, small family, no children or no spouse, please know that your preparation for your church’s corporate gathering is incredibly valuable to your experience with the Body and for the Body of Christ. Consider how you can intentionally prepare yourself for your big day of worshiping with the Church. It will definitely look different from our routine, but we hope you see the value in planning ahead and having purposeful times of readying your heart for corporate worship, regardless of your stage of life.